Suspension of UCLA ecologist under question after uncovering of new documents
UC Los Angeles professor of ecology and evolutionary biology Priyanga Amarasekare was suspended without pay in March 2022 after a committee found she breached confidentiality and procedural rules when criticizing her colleagues and department policies, the scientific journal Nature reported. Committee documents recently obtained by Nature have brought this decision into question.
Amarasekare was placed under a one-year, unpaid suspension by UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, but according to the obtained documents, the UCLA committee’s recommendation was a letter of censure and five-years probation.
A petition was launched on Jan. 23 calling for the university to reverse the suspension and was signed by over 500 scientists from around the world, according to Nature.
“This is the kind of punishment normally applied only to the most egregious wrongdoings such as scientific misconduct and Title IX violations,” the petition read. “Moreover, she has been denied access to any University facilities including her office, laboratory and e-mail, and removed from her NSF grant.”
Nature interviewed students and faculty who defended Amarasekare in administrative hearings in September 2021, and though no one knew the details of the charges against her, everyone believed she was being targeted for speaking out against discrimination within the department.
“This is the department that I know, an entity that preaches diversity and inclusion but practices homogeneity, exclusion and suppression of dissenting voices,” Amarasekare said in a 2020 email obtained by Nature.
UC Davis and Chile leaders embark on agricultural research collaboration
UC Davis signed an agreement with the Chilean Ministry of Agriculture to exchange research findings and encourage collaboration between the entities. The agreement was signed by Chancellor Gary May and Minister of Agriculture of Chile Esteban Valenzuela at a conference hosted by the UC Davis Chile Life Sciences Innovation Center (UC Davis Chile), according to The California Aggie.
“The agreement signed […] is meant to strengthen and formalize the already close collaboration with the Chilean government in areas that are of priority for both UC Davis and Chile, such as climate change, drought, development of rural areas and farmers’ wellbeing, sustainability and technological innovation, among others,” Executive Director of UC Davis Chile Dario Cantu said to The California Aggie.
UC Davis Chile opened in 2015 with sponsorship from the Chilean government, and it is a “strategic partner of universities, firms and other institutions to undertake research and transfer new technologies to Chile’s agro-food and environmental sectors,” according to its website.
A version of this article appeared on p. 2 of the March 2, 2023, print edition of the Daily Nexus.